One of the largest and least developed countries in Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) ranked 179th of 189 countries on the 2019 Human Development Index. DRC is now the second largest hunger crisis in the world after Yemen. Hunger and conflict fuel one another, with armed conflict and widespread displacement prevailing for the past 25 years and multiple other crises compounding DRC’s humanitarian challenges.
Populations in large swathes of eastern DRC have been living with conflict and displacement for much of the past two-and-a-half decades. This very often takes the form of ever-more fragmented armed groups preying on civilians and preventing them from accessing their fields. North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri are the provinces where war and unrest have been the most protracted. In recent years Tanganyika in the south east and the central Kasai provinces have also been hit. Countrywide, 5 million people have fled their homes and lost their means of livelihood.
The number of acutely food-insecure people stands at 21.8, making access to food a daily struggle for a significant part of the Congolese population. An estimated 3.4 million children are acutely malnourished.
A tenth outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) was declared in August 2018 – the third in two years, and the second in that year alone; it has claimed thousands of lives in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. It is the worst outbreak in the country’s history and the second largest and deadliest EVD outbreak globally. Fatal security incidents and community resistance to the Ebola response are among the factors that have hampered efforts to end the outbreak, which, as of March 2020, seems to be coming to an end.
More than 900,000 Congolese nationals are refugees in neighbouring countries while DRC, already struggling with internal conflict, hosts more than half a million people notably refugees from Burundi, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
With 80 million hectares of arable land, DRC has the potential to feed 2 billion people. Only 10 percent of its arable land is cultivated. Nevertheless, subsistence farming is prevalent in DRC, with families producing 42 percent of the food they consume. While needs remain focused on crisis response among vulnerable populations, in places where pockets of stability exist WFP and partners are shifting gradually to resilience-building activities, to and enhancing people’s self-reliance through DRC’s agricultural potential. Growing food is also a tool to advance recovery and peaceful co-existence between ethnic groups.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been present in the country since 1973. WFP collaborates with national actors and government institutions to enhance their capacities in disaster risk management and emergency preparedness. The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) and the provision of logistics services to the humanitarian community are also central to WFP’s portfolio in the DRC.
What WFP is doing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
WFP’s emergency crisis response currently covers seven of the most populous and conflict-affected provinces – North Kivu, South Kivu, Ituri, Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental and Tanganyika. A significant scale-up of WFP activities was required to reverse the deepening hunger crisis and WFP’s strengthened field operations yielded substantial results by enabling the organisation to reach 6.9 million beneficiaries in 2019 with lifesaving food and nutrition assistance. In 2020, WFP is targeting over 7 million people.
WFP has helped reduce the propagation of the Ebola virus by providing food to Ebola patients and to those who have come into contact with them, and by providing crucial logistical services, including trucks and air transportation, which enable responders to reach new or remote outbreak areas quickly. WFP also launched a school feeding programme in the affected areas to address the needs of the population through a more holistic approach and build trust and positive engagement.
Support for smallholder farmers
WFP in partnership with FAO, UNHCR and UNICEF works with returnees, IDPs, refugees and local communities to build assets that improve resilience to shocks, promote self-reliance and economic recovery. These joint programs help smallholder farmers to improve production and trading capacities, provide trainings on agricultural techniques, literacy to promote women’s empowerment, construction and rehabilitation of infrastructure. Small-scale livelihood activities are also being developed with refugees from Central African Republic and host communities.
In order to treat and prevent malnutrition, WFP is providing specialized nutritious food to vulnerable people including children under 5, and pregnant women and nursing mothers.
WFP provides meals in schools in several regions of the country. The school feeding programme stimulates local agricultural production, improves pupils’ concentration and boosts enrolment and attendance.
United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)
The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service provides aid workers, donors and diplomatic missions with safe, flexible, efficient and cost-effective air transportation to locations across a country the same size as western Europe. UNHAS also enables access to Ebola-affected areas for the entire response community.
Support to humanitarian coordination
WFP leads on logistics in the coordination of the humanitarian response in the DRC. Along with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) WFP also co-leads the coordination of food security activities.